I woke up the other morning and thought to myself, “It’s time for the 2’s and 3’s.” In the western church context there are a multiplicity of shapes of church and trends from traditional, denominational, mega-church, post-church etc, etc. I am aware of a groundswell amongst those who follow Jesus, both inside and outside the established churches looking for a more relational way of living out their faith. A stronger sense of community not built around attendance at meetings, centralised structures or hierarchy that lives authentic community in a way that is nearer the C1st expression that turned their world upside down with a counter cultural/spiritual expression.Read More »
Here I am sitting on my sofa on Palm Sunday 2020 in the midst of the most seismic global events in recent history. The Coronavirus pandemic is ravaging bodies, disturbing minds, shutting down societies and turning economies and government policies on their heads. Who would have thought that a Conservative Government would sanction the biggest state intervention in monetary stimulus since World War II, with no limits! They are literally giving money away.
As individuals and families we are in the middle of a crisis we are not in control of and responses have varied from out and out panic and stockpiling; anxiety, fear of all the “What if’s…”; a calm, measured pragmatism – qualities lauded by the Queen in her speech to the nations of the UK; opportunistic exploitation for profit but also altruistic, self-giving acts of kindness and service that are expressions of love.
One of the effects that will touch all of usRead More »
The last few weeks have stirred me to write, given the times we are in and the unknown paths we tread. W B Yeats’ poem resonates with me today, in between the defeat of the UK Government’s Withdrawal Agreement from the EU and a vote of ‘No Confidence” in the same government. A brilliant rendition by Joni Mitchell also captures the haunting uncertainty of what is being released and revealed
Slouching Towards Bethlehem
Turning and turning in the widening gyre
The falcon cannot hear the falconer;
Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;
Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,
The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere
The ceremony of innocence is drowned;
The best lack all conviction, while the worst
Are full of passionate intensity.
Surely some revelation is at hand;
Surely the Second Coming is at hand.
The Second Coming! Hardly are those words out
When a vast image out of Spiritus Mundi
Troubles my sight: a waste of desert sand;
A shape with lion body and the head of a man,
A gaze blank and pitiless as the sun,
Is moving its slow thighs, while all about it
Wind shadows of the indignant desert birds.
The darkness drops again but now I know
That twenty centuries of stony sleep
Were vexed to nightmare by a rocking cradle,
And what rough beast, its hour come round at last,
Slouches towards Bethlehem to be born?
Nick Tabor in the Paris Review explains some of the context for this poem –
“Yeats began writing the poem in January 1919, in the wake of the First World War, the Russian Revolution, and political turmoil in his native Ireland [Easter Rising in 1916 and before the UK Government sent in the Black and Tans]. But the first stanza captures more than just political unrest and violence. Its anxiety concerns the social ills of modernity: the rupture of traditional family and societal structures; the loss of collective religious faith, and with it, the collective sense of purpose; the feeling that the old rules no longer apply and there’s nothing to replace them. It’s the same form of despair we see in, say, Ivan Karamazov.
Of course, twentieth-century history did turn more horrific after 1919, as the poem forebodes. The narrator suggests something like the Christian notion of a “second coming” is about to occur, but rather than earthly peace, it will bring terror. As for the slouching beast, the best explanation is that it’s not a particular political regime, or even fascism itself, but a broader historical force, comprising the technological, the ideological, and the political. A century later, we can see the beast in the atomic bomb, the Holocaust, the regimes of Stalin and Mao, and all manner of systematized atrocity.” (Nick Tabor, No Slouch, the PARIS REVIEW 7/4/15)
You can add the rise of intolerance of people of difference, violent demonstrations on the street of Paris. It feels like part of what is being revealed is the failure of the western political systems to effectively represent and care for its peoples. Their rage, with complex and deep roots, lays the straw in the stable.
I have felt that 2019 will be the year of the ‘other’ and I can only respond as an individual and take responsibility for I treat how people who are different to me, make different choices and believe different things. One way to stand against the beast is to move in the opposite spirit, with kindness and generosity. And of course, to pray.
Today has been nuts!!
Some of you will know I am trying to sell my house as part of a transition into a new phase. It sold immediately last August, then the buyers pulled out two weeks before completion and it has had a lot of interest and some ‘almost’ moments since then. There have been other changes to how I ‘put bread on the table,’ and coupled with the delay in house sale, has put the pressure on! Needless to say that God has been digging deep and striking the tectonic plates of self reliance that are part of my foundations, asking me who it is I rely on.
I had come to the place of deciding to relaunch my business support/finance manager service (which I gave up some 12 years ago) and try and get some clients to make up the lost income, but this felt like a return to the ‘old’. I found myself refreshing the creative business I am a partner in and praying the last 2 days, with some angelic assistance, to release decrees around changing of the angelic guard around my life and a release on finance, resources and properties. I specifically prayed out of Genesis 28
10 Jacob left Beer-sheba, and went toward Haran. 11 And he came to a certain place, and stayed there that night, because the sun had set. Taking one of the stones of the place, he put it under his head and lay down in that place to sleep. 12 And he dreamed that there was a ladder set up on the earth, and the top of it reached to heaven; and behold, the angels of God were ascending and descending on it! 13 And behold, the Lord stood above it[b] and said, “I am the Lord, the God of Abraham your father and the God of Isaac; the land on which you lie I will give to you and to your descendants; 14 and your descendants shall be like the dust of the earth, and you shall spread abroad to the west and to the east and to the north and to the south; and by you and your descendants shall all the families of the earth bless themselves.[c] 15 Behold, I am with you and will keep you wherever you go, and will bring you back to this land; for I will not leave you until I have done that of which I have spoken to you.” 16 Then Jacob awoke from his sleep and said, “Surely the Lord is in this place; and I did not know it.” 17 And he was afraid, and said, “How awesome is this place! This is none other than the house of God, and this is the gate of heaven.” (RSV)
Jacob, in his own transition journey, and at a crossover point saw in a dream the angels ascending and descending a ladder traversing earth and heaven at Bethel – which I see as a changing of the angelic guard – and received God’s blessing and promise of fulfilment of all He had spoken.
Since praying, I have sold a painting, and today had an email confirming they want 5-6 paintings for exhibition at the Senedd (Welsh Assembly Government building in Cardiff) between July and September and had 2 house viewings booked for this weekend. Am quite blown away and grateful for His mercy towards me in leading me step by step, even if it has felt like pushing a bicycle through sand! I see the sands beginning to be blown away to reveal a firm path underneath.
cyfeillion-friends has 3 main precepts – to be friends of God, friends of the poor and friends of creation. I have been working up to writing about the ‘friends of creation’ theme but it is such a huge area, with issues such as caring for the environment, stewarding resources, creation as God’s temple – dwelling and meeting place, the impact of the cross on creation just to start with. I approach with trepidation. However, I do feelRead More »
Quite a few prophetic words being released for 2018, Jim Goll, Elijah List. I am aware that these are both from the American context and have found little in the way of prophetic voices in the UK. Maybe I am just not tuned in to those stations.
For many 2017 was a turbulent year and people I know generally seem to be glad to see the new year in. Personally as I skipped across the threshold and into a new space I hit the brick wall of work related realities that needed attention. Learning like Jesus to walk through the wall, albeit in a different way.
As I ponder the way ahead I feel that 2018 will be the year of the ‘left turns.’ What does that mean? If you are anything like me you are a pro-active imaginer of possibilities and options, thinking through implications and consequences to see how it all feels, sensing what Jesus is saying before settling on a direction and next steps. I have a sense of where things are flowing this year but sense that there could be a left turn (or turns) up ahead that I hadn’t anticipated. On a grander scale its already happening in the political left in the UK as Momentum gain more influence in the Labour party. Also in the USA the New York Times article reports the ‘hard left turn’ of some Democrats as they prepare for the 2020 elections.
Even though I have a sense of where things are flowing this leads me to hold things even more lightly than normal. So whether you are pro-active planner or a re-active responder I wonder if we would do well to be prepared for the unexpected left turn events that may surprise us this year.
Phew! I made to the end of the year! It was touch and go at times, but glad of a week in my ‘cave’ to rest, reflect and decompress. Being an introvert it’s the only way to recharge and I am sure I am not alone in this.
This year has been the beginning of a sea change, re-alignments ready for the next phase with all the wrestling with myself, turbulence and choppy waters that goes with such reshaping. Reducing what I am responsible for, whether that is handing over managing a community call centre service Antioch provides, a change in role on finances or downsizing from my 3 bedroom house and large garden to a one bedroom flat.
I heard loud and clear this month that I was to ‘go narrow to go deeper’ and it feels like this re-alignment is still in process. It brings with it some challenges but there are stepping stones and I am not ruling out walking on water either!
Throughout this year I have also been working with some friends to establish Y Tŷ Celf – The Art House, a community interest company which aims to make art the heart of the community. We want to support artists and increase the community’s connection with the arts, particularly visual arts. The company was finally incorporated on October 31st, 2017 and in November I had a series of 4 dreams over a 2 week period.
In each dream I am in a room with people, but the people I am with are different each time; firstly Theresa May, UK government prime minister in a highly structured context, facing a vulnerable and challenging situation not of her own making but who has influence over how the country develops and moves forward.
Then, Patricia King, a long standing and reputable apostolic voice, female business entrepreneur, founder of xpmedia.com in the USA and is part of the Revival Alliance (Johnson, Arnott, Ahn etc).
Then Martin & Gayle Scott from the UK new church stream currently living a prophetic lifestyle outside the structured church with ”a deep concern for the nation of Spain and the political shape of the land….understanding that the body of Christ is to take responsibility for the health of the world.” They seek to work this through, taking responsibility for holding the space open for a new politics of love in Spain and for the sake of Europe – looking for societal change as the fruit of the gospel.
Finally, Billy Bragg, a singer songwriter and left wing activist. His music focuses on societal change and getting younger people involved in activism. He identifies as a progressive, someone who wants to see society re-organised so that everyone has access to the means by which to reach their full potential. His classic 1988 protest song ‘waiting for the great leap forward’ (the ‘great leap forward’ was Chairman Mao’s attempt to revolutionise China’s economy) resonates as much today and reflects the power of popular culture and the importance of individual actions.
“If no one seems to understand
start your own revolution, cut out the middle man
in a perfect world we’d all sing in tune
but this is reality, so give me some room.
So join the struggle while you may
The revolution is just a T-shirt away.
Quite a selection, but what could it all mean? Some historic influences, some current, some reflective of spheres in which I have stood to pray for change and transformation in people and communities. Interestingly in the dreams the only one I actually talked to was Billy Bragg and we were in a pub at the time!
My feeling is these dreams were confirming the transition I am in the midst of. A move to narrow down my focus to dig deeper into creative writing and visual arts. I firmly believe that artists and makers can release spiritual dynamics, heaven to earth, shape culture and release life and lift people up. For many years I have looked to produce work that leads people into encounters with angels and the heavenly realms, to open up new possibilities of experiencing God’s heart for people and His creation, bringing light and understanding.
Skipping in to the new year with hope and expectation.
Born in 1342 into uncertain times – two plagues within twenty years, which halved the population of Norwich, and England in the middle of a thirty-year war with France. She was deeply religious and earnestly prayed for three things – an experience of the passion as if she had been there, a near death encounter at age thirty, and thirdly, the gift of three wounds, contrition, natural compassion and a longing for God. Whilst the three wounds were a constant prayer she seems to have let the other two go until they came to pass in the her thirty-first year.
In early 1373 she succumbed to an illness that took her near to death and having received the last rites all expected her to die. She remembered her requests for an experience of the passion and near death encounters and experienced two days of visionary encounters centred around the love of God as well as themes of redemption, God’s mercy and sin.
It is thought that after this experience that Julian withdrew to live as an anchoress in seclusion and prayer in two rooms attached to the main body of the church of St Julian in Norwich, with a maid to assist her. She had three windows in her room – one facing the street, in the commercial quarter of Norwich, where people could come to ask for her advice, one where she could look into the church when services were held and one where the maid brought food and water and took out the waste.
When I visited the church I was really impacted by the enduring presence of God in the small room she had lived in. Here was an unknown, illiterate woman who taught herself to read and write and who had amazing encounters with Father, Son and Holy Spirit over a two-day period. She divided these encounters into sixteen ‘Showings’ and spent the rest of her life, forty years or so, meditating, reflecting and writing in what some describe as a circular fashion, going ever deeper to discover more of the heart of God.
She was a contemporary of Chaucer and was the first woman to write a ‘book,’ a spiritual treatise, in the language of common people and is acknowledged as the “first lady” of written English – as significant to prose as Chaucer was to poetry.
Her spirituality and theology, deeply rooted in daily life and experiences, were counter-cultural with the church in a dire state and most people focussed on avoiding going to hell, the Inquisition and the stamping out of heresy in full flow. Her message was entirely positive focussing on God’s grace as she encountered the love of the Father through Jesus by the Hoy Spirit. This love is shown continually towards all He has made –
“In this vision he showed me a little thing, the size of a hazelnut, and it was round as a ball. I looked at it with the eye of my understanding and thought, “What may this be?” And it was generally answered thus: “It is all that is made.” I marvelled how it might last, for it seemed it might suddenly have sunk into nothing because of its littleness. And I was answered in my understanding, “It lasts and ever shall, because God loves it.” (Revelation 5)
And it was the reason for the Showings –
“From the time I first had these revelations I often longed to know what our Lord meant. More than fifteen years later I was given in response a spiritual understanding and was told: “Do you want to know what our Lord meant in all this? Know it well: Love was his meaning. Who showed it to you? Love. What did he show you? Love. Why did he show it to you? For love.” (Revelation 86)
I am inspired by her example, she followed where He led even though it was against the tide and denounced by the established church, sustained by the love of God.
Excuse the pun! We are both in our fifties and just publicly marked the beginning of cyfeillion-friends on a warm and windy sunny afternoon on Whitford Beach. Grateful for the company of friends and missing those who couldn’t be there it was a joy filled time of special moments and significance. For me a feeling of having taken a step into something that has been buried deep within me for decades, only now to emerge, tentatively, into a new creative space.
Following on from this, we are beginning of a series of blogs where Karen and I will focus on women mystics through the High to Late Middle Ages, some sites we have visited and some we have read about – the purse doesn’t stretch to globetrotting these days! These women had an impact in their time and still speak today, their legacy – inspiration that spans generations.
The High to Late Middle Ages (1000-1500AD) were uncertain, with socio-political and spiritual turmoil including the break-up of feudalism, the rise of capitalism, the break up of Catholicism, national disasters and a release of new religious movements.
Some felt the church’s fallen state (usury, gluttony, lust for riches and sexual excess amongst the priests) was due to acquiring property and the church had ‘unchurched’ itself, they believed, in the fourth century when Constantine gifted Western Europe to St Sylvester.’ This resulted in restorationist movements seeking to return to an expression of faith in line with the first century apostles’ principles. This ‘rage for apostolic poverty’ was characteristic of the Middle Ages and resulted in men and women leaving their positions and possessions so that they may more perfectly follow Christ. Some did this alone, others in small groups, others in conjunction with or in cooperation with established, cloistered religious orders, and some became the beginnings of new religious orders. The most well known is St Francis and his pursuit of the vita apostolica – The Apostolic life.
Between 1100 and 1400 women were to find new roles within the church and society. Traditionally their choice was either “man [marriage] or the wall [monastery]” and as they were not allowed a position of leadership within the church structure they took on a prophetic role – particularly the Beguines (alongside the movement amongst lay men, the Beghards).
The Beguines were the first specifically women’s movement birthed out of the revival in the thirteenth century and some say a female response to St Francis’ vita apostolica. Despite the dire state of the institutional church there were many ordinary people who had a clear and vivid faith and wanted a way of life that matched the purity of their desires. These women were not nuns, they were lay people, nor were they attached to a specific order as convents at the time were often the repository for rich families’ unwanted children or you had to come form a certain strata of society and pay a dowry to get in! Mostly prominent in Northern Europe, some lived at home some with others, some dedicated themselves to prayer, some combined prayer with acts of mercy. They were self-supporting artisans and craftspeople and thought to be forerunners of the active orders of religious women – think Mother Teresa – who lived, worked and ministered to the world and not in cloistered convents.
That’s a very broad backdrop to the lives and influences of some of the women we will look at. I feel a particular resonance with these women particularly the mix of their creativity, spirituality and community engagement. I am keen to learn more from their experiences and how they made an impact in their communities and beyond.
 Abraham Van Luik, Lessons from a Women’s Movement in the High Middle Ages
It’s been quiet on the Cyfellion front over the last 6 months or so as I have been focussed on managing the final renovations of Antioch Centre and the Ail Gyfle-Second Chance social enterprise workshops here in Llanelli as well as handing on some roles and responsibilities. All good stuff and am very pleased with how its all looking. Some rest over the last few months and experimenting with a new, more relaxed rhythm has left space for looking forward.
We would like to mark the beginning of the next stage in the journey of cyfeillion-friends with some prayer, worship, and communion so this is an invitation to join us if you are able and would like to stand with us. You won’t be signing up to anything but we would appreciate your company and prayers as we begin to explore some new landscapes
Place : Whitford Beach, Llanmadoc, north Gower
Date : Saturday July 1st
Time : 12pm
We will head back to the caravan for a light lunch so if you are coming could you message or email me on firstname.lastname@example.org